RACINE — John “Jack” Jude was a man who cared deeply about his community, its people and their ability to be better and to work to make things better for each other.

A retired Racine County Circuit Court judge and active humanitarian, Jude died at his home Saturday morning, reportedly from a heart attack. He was 71.

News of his death spread quickly through legal circles and on social media over the weekend, where dozens of people posted fond remembrances of the jurist and community volunteer.

Many found the news a shock, noting that as far they knew Jude, who retired on July 31, was in good health.

Funeral services are scheduled to take place Friday. Relatives and friends may meet with the family at Siena Center Chapel, 5635 Erie St., Caledonia, from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., when a Mass is scheduled.

Community caretaker

Friends and colleagues reached for comment after his passing described Jude as one the kindest, caring and decent people they have ever encountered.

“He was really one of the most caring and thoughtful people,” retired Judge Dennis Flynn said.

Known by many in the community not as a jurist, but as “Jack,” Jude was actively involved in the community. From his time with the Center for Community Concerns, which helped spawn many of the Racine area nonprofits we know today, including the Women’s Resource Center and the Volunteer Center of Racine County, to his role in Project Acceptance, which advocated for community-based treatment for offenders, Jude was almost always involved in making the community a better place, friends said.

He was the board president for the United Way of Racine County for many years, and an active member of St. Patrick’s Church, 1100 Erie St., where he sang in the choir. Most recently he served president of the Siena Retreat Center’s Board of Directors.

“If there was a good cause on behalf of justice in this community, you would find Jack Jude championing it,” said Racine County Circuit Judge Mark Nielsen.

Just days before his death, Jude was working with fellow Community Concerns alumnus Michelle Olley to compile materials for a Racine Heritage Museum exhibit about the former organization. He also was gathering information about the group for a recognition lunch the Volunteer Center of Racine County is planning for April.

“He was so excited,” said Al Volmut, the director of the Volunteer Center.

Dedicated jurist

As a judge, Jude was equally kind and generous, said colleagues.

A longtime family law practitioner, Jude was elected to the bench on April 6, 2004, defeating challenger Georgia Herrera 16,270 to 13,880 to take over the seat of retiring Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas.

Once on the bench, Jude continued to champion community causes. He worked with the Volunteer Center to help find community service work for young offenders. He also served on committees aimed at finding resolutions to issues affecting the court.

“Jack was always a man I could call upon to be involved with committees that needed input, and to address new programs,” said Judge Allen “Pat” Torhorst, who serves as chief judge of the Second Judicial District, which encompasses Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson and Nielsen also noted the compassion that Jude showed as a judge.

“Judge Jude truly believed that he could help improve the lives of those who came before him in the courtroom and people he encountered in the community,” Hanson said. “He always tried to find the humanity in people and guide them to making better decisions for themselves.”

For Nielsen, who took Jude’s post after beating challenger Joe Seifert in the April 5 election, Jude was great example of a jurist and a person.

“Jack Jude looked for the good in people,” Nielsen said. “When I find myself on the bench needing to channel that quality, it is Jack Jude that I try to channel.

“He was one of the most truly decent human beings I have ever dealt with, and that (decency) permeated everything he did,” Nielsen continued. “He will be terribly missed by us all.”

A complete obituary for Jude is expected to be published in The Journal Times on Wednesday. Maresh Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for the family.

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